I often think of Zinc as Mrs Claus and Vitamin C as Santa. Vitamin C has gotten all the fame and credit over the last decade, whilst zinc sits quietly in the background doing a lion’s share of the work.
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Well it is Zinc’s turn to shine, as we let it take center stage in fertility.
Why do we need a shining light in fertility?
Well on the face of it you would think that infertility rates have remained relatively stable over the past two or three decades. However this is largely due to the developments in IVF techniques. What has increased is the number of couples having problems conceiving without the help of assisted reproductive techniques.
Statistically you will have an 11% chance of struggling to conceive if you are under the age of 24 years, this jumps to 47% as you reach 40 years of age.
Why does this matter?
There have been positive and negative aspects of societal and economic change which have changed when couples are choosing to have babies. Even using the word ‘choosing’ gives a hint as to some of these changes!
Most women now have choice, thanks to contraception, education, and changes in societal norms. Equally, many women are pushed into waiting to have a baby due to the cost of living and raising a child, as well as potential career pressures.
Over the two to three decades the average age of having a baby has increased by nearly 10 years. This is impacting on fertility.
IVF might be excelling where underlying medical issues are at fault, but it cannot make low quality eggs healthy.
Fear not…nutrition has some secret weapons. And they are winning the war on infertility.
One of the biggest factors in problems with conception is ovulation. It is one of the first things which needs to happen in order for pregnancy to be a success.
In our ovaries a number of follicles start to grow and mature, just before ovulation the dominant follicle releases an egg. This moves down the fallopian tube where it is hopefully fertilized, and then into the uterus for implantation.
There are quite a few things which can mess with ovulation. There might be no suitable mature follicle due to DNA damage, or just poor quality eggs.
This is where zinc comes to the rescue!
Zinc is a powerful antioxidant which plays a key role in the development of healthy eggs. It is involved very early on in the egg’s growth too.
Studies have shown that zinc deficiency affects fertility 3 or more months before a couple are even trying to conceive – as this is when the follicle begins its journey of growing a mature egg.
This also means that zinc deficiency is not just an issue for people trying to conceive the ol’ fashioned way. It will also impact those having eggs collected for IVF.
The question is – who is most at risk of a deficiency?
There are a few factors which could put you at increased risk. Zinc is primarily found in foods derived from animals. This means vegetarians and vegans are at risk of deficiency.
People who have digestive disorders such as Coeliac Disease, Crohns, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, as well as liver disease are at risk of zinc deficiency too.
This highlights the need to keep on top of your probiotics and have a healthy gut.
How can you get zinc into your diet?
Zinc is found in;
- Nuts and Seeds
- Dark chocolate
Here are some yummy recipe ideas to help you out!
1. Black bean brownies
- 1 cup sultanas or raisins
- 1 cup chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup seeds of your preference
- 1 cup nuts, of your preference roasted
3. Scrambled egg on wholegrain
4. Chia seed pudding
- 3–4 Tablespoons chia seeds
- 1 cup milk (nut milks are nice, or plain old cows milk)
- 1/2 Tablespoon maple syrup or honey
Then add your flavour
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla (optional) or
- 1 tablespoon cocoa or
- ½ cup blended strawberries
You can blend all ingredients if you’d prefer a smoother pudding, or leave the chia seeds whole. Then refrigerate in an airtight container overnight.